Newcastle United face the first big test of their Premier League title aspirations on Saturday but the trip to champions Manchester City could be coming at the right time for the table-topping Magpies.
The late kick-off at the Etihad will be City’s fourth game in two weeks and follows Wednesday’s Uefa Super Cup penalty shootout win over Sevilla in the sapping heat and humidity of Athens.
Pep Guardiola’s side are also without influential Belgium midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, ruled out for up to four months after suffering a hamstring injury in the season-opening 3-0 win at Burnley.
“Thank you so much to the Premier League for letting us play on Saturday, and not on Sunday and Monday,” Guardiola said sarcastically of the 72-hour turnaround from Wednesday’s game. “Thank you so much”.
United are meanwhile well-rested and still fizzing after their 5-1 home thrashing of Aston Villa on the opening weekend sent the Saudi-owned side top of the standings on goal difference.
The two clubs drew 3-3 at St James’ Park last August on their first meeting of that season but Abu Dhabi-owned City won 2-0 at home in March on their way to the treble.
Newcastle have yet to win a Premier League match at The Etihad but the arrival of Italy’s Sandro Tonali has boosted an already strong midfield featuring Brazil internationals Bruno Guimaraes and Joelinton.
Guimaraes explained on a Brazilian podcast last month how much he has hated playing City in the past, so good were their players.
“It’s the worst game when we play there. I hate it. It seems that we are children and they are professionals. It’s horrible,”
“It feels like they’re playing with 15 and we’re playing with seven. You look and say, ‘Wow, it looks so blue!’. They’re all crazy good.”He said.
With City’s Norway striker Erling Haaland opening his account for the season with a double at Burnley, fans of both sides can expect a lively afternoon.
The top four last season all won their opening games this term but the Man City versus Newcastle clash ensures the run cannot continue, while Manchester United also have a tricky trip to Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
It will be Spurs’ first home game since the departure of England captain Harry Kane to Bayern Munich, with new manager Ange Postecoglou chasing his first Premier League win after a 2-2 draw at Brentford on the opening weekend.
Argentina defender Cristian Romero remains uncertain after his substitution for a head knock at Brentford.
Last season’s runners-up Arsenal visit Crystal Palace on Monday in one of three London derbies, with Chelsea at West Ham United on Sunday and Fulham hosting Brentford on Saturday.
Arsenal are already missing some important players, with new Dutch defender Jurrien Timber ruled out with a knee injury that requires surgery.
“We recruited him intentionally to add to the team and now we have to adapt and move on,”Said manager Mikel Arteta.
Liverpool are overwhelming favourites to win their first home league game of the season against Bournemouth on Saturday, a side they thumped 9-0 at Anfield last August to equal the Premier League record.
Nottingham Forest welcome promoted Sheffield United on Friday, while Wolverhampton Wanderers host Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday and Everton visit Aston Villa on Sunday.
Promoted Luton’s first home game against Burnley has been postponed due to stadium improvement works at Kenilworth Road with both sides having a weekend off.
Burnley manager Vincent Kompany said it would be an opportunity for extra training to get new players up to speed with the strain of midweek games to come later in the year.